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make younger ones more alive to their own eternal interests. May the ministry of God's word, whether by tongue or pen, fill them with a firmer and a holier purpose of better knowing God our Father, and Jesus our Lord, and of more openly and fully confessing Christ and serving Him in a money-getting and pleasure-seeking world.
In connection with this subject Philip Doddridge's fine and godly epigram may well be remembered—an epigram which Dr. Johnson judged to be the best in the English language:
" Live while you live, the sacred Preacher cries,
And give to God each moment as it flies.
I live in pleasure whilst I live to Thee." Yet "a little while" and the Eden of God's pleasures will be the home of all his saints for ever, and one pleasure amongst the many will be this, that as "His servants” we
“ shall “serve Him," and "shall see His face," and shall have
His Name” written on our“ foreheads." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN:
ITS GENERAL PURPORT.
At the outset several leading features are noticeable: its abruptness of commencement, without introduction or salutation ; the decision and force of the language; the strong contrasts; the apparent contradictions; the positive assurances of death on the one hand, and of life on the other.
These peculiarities seem to point to a state of things pressing forcibly on the apostle's attention, and calling for prompt interference and vigorous action. Because of the imperious nature of the topics he has to bring forward, the usual courtesies are withheld, whilst their absence is fully seen to arise from no want of affection towards those to whom he writes, or from any disregard of the position of favour with God wherein they stand.
Those whom he addresses are in danger upon a vital point-the point upon which their salvation depends. To this he applies himself. There is no leisure for ordinary instructions or warnings. It is a question of life or death—the very substance of the Christian's hope and faith. To this and its immediate connections he confines himself. The range is limited, but the subject is of the utmost possible importance.
There were those who sought to seduce the disciples of Christ. These seducers are called antichrists—that is, opposed to Christ. They are described in chap ii. 22, as denying that Jesus (of Nazareth) is the Christ. In Matt. xvi. 16, Peter owns Him as “the Christ, the Son of the living God;” as announced in Psalm ii. The knowledge that Jesus of Nazareth, who then stood before him, was the high and holy One, is declared by our Lord to be due to the Father having revealed the fact to Peter. And in John vi. 69, Peter makes the same acknowledgment on his own behalf and on that of the other disciples.
In this epistle (chap ii. 22) John declares that the denial of Jesus being the Christ is tantamount to denying that He is the Son of God, and likewise to the denial of the Father; and that he who so denies the Son, hath not the Father.
Thus, then, we have several indications of these parties :—They are seducers and deceivers. They deny that Jesus is the Christ. They deny that He is the Son of God. Inferentially they deny both the Father and the Son. They have not the Father. The Spirit of God calls them antichrists and liars. Who can these persons be? Are they Jews, Gentiles, or of the Church of God?
They cannot belong to the Church of God, because the apostle declares in chap. ii. 19, that “none of them were of us;” for such seems the force of the passage. Neither can they well be Gentiles; because the very language presupposes an amount of knowledge of the Scriptures of God which, in that day, the Gentiles could not easily obtain, and it likewise evinces an antagonism to the claims of Jesus as the rightful Messiah, which we do not read of the Gentiles having ever exhibited.
But of the Jews we read in Matt. xxvi. that the great council of the nation, presided over by the High Priest, condemned Jesus to death because of His acknowledging Himself to be the Son of God and the Messiah, or Christ. The hostility of the Jews to Jesus displayed before Pilate, and at the cross, is seen throughout the Acts to have been constant, and it is their national characteristic to the present day. It is not difficult therefore to trace in the Jew the indications above given by the apostle John. Other intimations are not wanting of unconverted Jews having found their way among the early Christians for mischief. 2 Cor. ii. 12-24 shows what they already had been doing in the Corinthian Church ; and Paul designates them false apostles and ministers of Satan.
The special shape in which their malignity is found working in this epistle, is the denial of Jesus Christ having come in flesh. The passages in chap. iv. 2 read literally thus: “Every spirit that confesseth Jesus Christ HAVING COME in flesh is of God. And every spirit that confesseth not Jesus Christ HAVING COME in flesh is not of God.” A wide distinction exists between the lip admission of a certain fact, and the acknowledgment of Him whom that
fact identifies. Satan and his emissaries would go much farther than the admission of the fact; they would even acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth as the Holy One of God, the Christ, and even the Son of God. (Luke iv. 34 and 41.) But this was not an avowal of willing subjection to Him, for they added, “ Let us alone ; what have we to do with Thee ?” The required confession is that of the heart and life. The lip avowal, as in Acts xvi. 17, is intended to beguile.
In 2 John 7 the opposition of the antichrists takes a second form, that of “not confessing Jesus Christ COMING in flesh." The hatred to Jesus is continuous. It refuses to own Him as the Messiah, whether in relation to His First, or to His Second Advent. Nevertheless the same Jesus who is gone into the heavens will come the second time, He is identically the same, yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.
As, therefore, while our Lord was on earth it was in vain for the Jews to say that God was their Father (John viii. 41), while they denied Jesus as the Christ; so, the apostle tells us, it is in vain for any to assert that they have the Father while they deny the Son.
The opposition of these antichrists seems also to take a third form—that of attributing to our Lord an illusory or visionary existence, instead of that comprehended under the term “in flesh.” None of the Jews, not even the disciples, had been willing to admit that the Christ should suffer. But in order to suffer, it was requisite that He should be incarnate, in reality, and not merely in appearance. This point the Holy Ghost is careful to establish. “ The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." And the reason is furnished in Heb. ii. 14, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same.”
In this epistle, evidence to the same effect is carefully adduced. It is the first point brought forward. The apostle had heard the voice of His lips; had seen Him, not casually, but had gazed upon Him; and even handled His blessed person. To this evidence he adds that of the water and the blood proceeding from His wounded side, which he himself had personally beheld. Apart from any figurative interpretation, this seems, in chap. v. 8, to be adduced in further proof of the incarnation and of the death of the Son of God.
The immeasurable importance of this fact is discernible in this, that “in Him is life. He that hath the Son hath the life, and he that hath not the Son hath not the life;" “but the wrath of God abideth on him.” “This is the true God and eternal life.” Well, therefore, might the apostle say, “Lord, to whom shall we go ? Thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, crucified, and risen, gone into the heavens and seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, was the foundation of their hope. Deprived of Him, there could be no hope. Those who adhere to Him, and are anointed by the Holy Ghost, know that in Him and in Him alone there is life. This truth, that they who have the Son have life, is pressed upon them (chap. v. 13) as the testimony of God Himself. His believing people, as children of God, have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ; they have also fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth them from all sin. They walk with God who is Light, and this involves following Christ who is the Light. Any one who says he has fellowship with God, and does not follow Christ, is asserting that which is untrue.